Outfitted For Success: How “Sponsor a Princess,” The Royal Closet, and Community Giving Impact Our Royalty

The members of the Daffodil Royal Court volunteer dozens of valuable hours of their senior years of high school to community representation and service. Through Festival programs like “Sponsor a Princess,” the Festival Closet, and more, we can make sure that they continue to look and feel good doing it!

2022 Queen Clara strikes a silly pose with members of the 2022 Royal Court, before the Tacoma stretch of the Grand Floral Parade. [photo courtesy of Alana Celii]

As individual high school Princess Selections wind down to a close, we find ourselves celebrating the beginnings of a new Court!

They’re well on their way: a fresh batch of 24 new Princess Candidates, ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime, one filled with yellow dresses, community appearances, out-of-town parades, and more. These scholars and leaders will become not just the 2023 Daffodil Festival Royal Court, but the Official Ambassadors of Pierce County, serving as representatives of their home schools, communities, and county wherever they go.

On an organizational level, taking that title seriously means making affordances towards financial equity: as we want our Ambassadors to confidently reflect the communities they represent, we make it a priority to keep monetary barriers from participation as low as possible, with no financial threshold to pass, in order to become a Daffodil Princess.

Furthermore, the friendly yellow-jacketed Daffodilians you see at events and in the Parade are not paid to be there; the Festival itself is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that staffed on a completely volunteer basis. In all ways, the Daffodil Festival organization is built for – and from – the community it represents and serves, on the shoulders of public giving. 

That’s why programs like the “Sponsor a Princess” fundraising campaign and The Festival Closet could really use your help: while not everyone has as much time or energy to volunteer as they would like, these programs were initiated as opportunities for public assistance, in a hands-on way, that continues to influence the lives and experiences of our Princesses directly!

Chances are, if you’re still new to the Festival – or even just didn’t catch some of our social media shoutouts last year – you might not know what these programs really entail. As we prepare for the new 2023 Court for the coming Festival year, we want to pull back the curtain, and show you exactly how your generosity impacts the lives of the young women and community members who participate in our Festival’s Royal Court.


2023 Director of Royalty Mabel Thompson crowns Princess Nakiya-Rene (Washington HS) at Promenade 2022. [photo courtesy of Jeff Ritter]

The brainchild of 2017 Princess and current Director of Royalty Mabel Thompson and 2017 Queen and current Director of Events Marin Sasaki-Boyce, the Festival Closet was created to help our newly minted Princesses build out the beginnings of a professional wardrobe.

“I knew the Daffodil Festival would not cost me money to be part of as Royalty,” says Thompson. “What I did not know was all the behind the scenes work that went into funding the program. It was not like other organizations where membership dues covered the expenses of the organization. After I had become an alumna of the Festival, I immediately wanted to know how to give back to an organization that helped me grow so much.”

In the Fall of 2020, Thompson and Sasaki-Boyce began brainstorming ideas for what would become the Festival Closet: a pool of donated, high-quality clothing that members of Royalty could pull individual pieces from, in order to start building out their own professional closet.

“The 2022 Court was the first court to be able to ‘shop’ the Closet, and it was comforting knowing that we had tangible resources to support Princesses and their families not only in formal Princess regalia, but in professional wear they could use even after their time as a Princess,” Thompson says. “I have had a few members of that court send me a photo or their interview attire with pieces from the Closet, telling me they got the job, or were thinking of the lessons they received in Practice and felt confident in their attire.”

Our Princesses join our ranks each year in their senior year of high school. Most of these young women have never before been tasked with sitting down to a job interview, or even gone shopping for a blazer. Through the formation of the Royal Closet, each member of the 2022 Royal Court was able to select three individual pieces that were entirely their own.

“I had such a great experience with the Festival Closet, as it allowed me to not only bond with my fellow Princesses, but educated me on things that truly matter for my career,” says 2022 Queen Clara, from Curtis High School. “As I was being educated on ‘business casual’ attire, I was given the tools on how to appropriately dress for success.”

2022 Princess Kaitlyn of Bonney Lake shares a moment of laughter, outside of formal interviews before coronation. [Photo courtesy of The Daffodil Festival.]

2022 Princess Kaitlyn, from Bonney Lake High School, wasn’t sure whether anything on hand would accommodate her frame, but her fears were soon assuaged, as she still utilizes the pieces she selected in her personal wardrobe to this day. “I know that I was a bit worried about finding something that would fit me since I am a taller and bigger person. However, I was really impressed with the dedication to providing a diversity of styles and sizes to make all of us Princesses feel our best. I was able to pick a couple of wonderful shirts that I still wear pretty frequently. I wore one of those blouses to my formal interview [before Queen’s Coronation] and am currently wearing the other right now!”

For 2022 Princess Andrea, from Silas High School, it provided a physical part of the Festival she could bring with her into the future. “The pieces provided to me by the Festival Closet played a pivotal role in bolstering my confidence beyond Princess Practices, but also when being interviewed, giving speeches, and attending networking conferences. The Festival Closet taught me how dressing the part is half the battle. I adore my pair of slacks and blue flower dress… they will always be reminders of my experience within the Daffodil Festival and how I found my signature style.”

The 2022 Royal Court displays their selections from the Festival Closet during Princess Practice. [photo courtesy of the Daffodil Festival]

“It was so exciting to see everything that was being offered because I knew they would be very useful to me, and I didn’t have any options prior to the closet being provided,” says 2022 Princess Aiysha, from Foss High School. “I have utilized these pieces often since, for interviews, professional settings, and more.”

She’s been able to put them to good use after having moved away from home for college, alongside the other vital information she learned during Princess Practices. “I had to interview for a job and I knew I was prepared and professionally ready. I was able to select the right outfit, go into the interview with confidence, and give the best answers possible. Little things like these can help you in the long run. I don’t think I would have gotten the information I got from Princess Practices anywhere else, because of how unique the role of a Daffodil Princess is.”


In the Fall 2020, after the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Daffodil Festival was forced to do what many of our community members were also doing: tighten their belts, and figure out a way forward. We knew that it was necessary to redirect and refocus the ways that annual spending was distributed, and spent many hours dedicated to finding a path towards more financial sustainable practices.  

This was not a new concept for the Festival – as you might imagine, outfitting 24 Princesses with the requisite tiara, dress, and more can be a challenge on an annual basis – but a very new element, and a welcome one, was how many people contacted leadership, looking for a way to help. For instance, willing donors would ask if they could help provide the Royalty with their gloves for the year, or donate a little towards jewelry. While donating directly was more than welcome, more Festival supporters than ever were looking for a tangible, “real” way to show their appreciation for the continued efforts of Festival Royalty.

The consideration for this kind of public support opened doors for the “Sponsor a Princess” campaign, which allowed community members to directly contribute, in a specific, identifiable way, to outfitting our Royalty for their coming Festival season. For $15, you could provide a Princess with earrings, a pair of gloves, or the all-too-important nametag; for $700, donors could provide every single element of a full Princess outfit, including the iconic yellow dress, which have to be custom-fitted to every Court member.  

After the success of our first campaign for the 2021 Court, hope was tentatively high when we first began sharing the links for donation again on our social media posts in early January of this year. However, within two weeks, the 2022 “Sponsor a Princess” campaign had ended, having generated enough funding to completely outfit all 23 participating Daffodil Princesses of the 2022 Royal Court!

The proper outfit can take you far… like how a yellow dress and a tiara took our 2022 Royal Court to the steps of the Capitol building, to meet local government leaders in Olympia! [photo courtesy of the Daffodil Festival]

 “It made me so happy and relieved,” says 2022 Princess Victoria, from Franklin Pierce High School. “I would not be able to pay for it out of pocket. To know that the community helped out is tremendous.”

For Princess Kaitlyn, the Sponsor a Princess campaign made her feel even more welcome and supported. “[It] was a wonderful comfort to my family and [me]. Having to provide $700 for my attire wouldn’t have been feasible for us. Seeing our community band together to fully sponsor all of us Princesses not only was a financial help, but it set the tone early on that the community was behind us and supported us… knowing that the community was there for all of us made everything worth it.”

2023 Festival President, Madison Riddle, truly believes in the importance of Daffodil attire promoted by use of the Festival Closet and “Sponsor a Princess” programs, as she has donated to both herself, and plans on doing so again in the future. “I don’t think any young person should worry about what they’re wearing,” she says. “I want them to focus on learning.”


But it’s more than just putting an incredible young woman in a beautiful gown: community giving affects every aspect of the organization, as the generous spirit of volunteers who provide leadership, event staffing, technical knowledge, and more, provide the Royal Court with everything they need to have a positive Festival experience.

President Riddle herself wanted to acknowledge the number of hours that members of the organization put into the Daffodil Festival, and wishes that there was more that could be done to celebrate them. Specifically mentioning Festival leadership like Mabel Thompson, Demetria Zuniga, Judy Smith, Connie Wekell, Sue Dellinger, and more, she adds that “The Festival would love to plan additional events for volunteers, alumni, and the community.”

According to Director of Royalty Mabel Thompson, the Royal Court program’s legacy of having “impacted hundreds of lives,” is widely thanks to the contributions of “time, resources, knowledge, wisdom, and more” that have come from Daffodil volunteers and Festival partners.

“All of the amazing Chaperones who pick up Princesses, ensure their safety, drop them off and make sure everyone is ready to roll,” Thompson says. “The Sewing Team that helps put together capes, necklaces, sashes, and aids in repairs… all of the Alumnae that helped me put together curriculum for the Education process last year… Connie Wekell, for donating the Queen’s dress and hosting the Court for etiquette lessons. The Alumnae that have served as Golden Buddies, panelists, mock interviewers, and support in other places.” She also made sure to call out members of the 2023 Royalty Team – Lindsay Clark, Kelty Pierce, and Karah Ritter, each past Royalty  as well – for their additional support and involvement.

“Volunteers, Daffodilians, chaperones and community members that provide their time and resources to the Festival get a variety of things in return,” Thompson says. “Sometimes it is networking opportunities… a sense of community… knowing that you made a difference in that person’s life. While some positions have more opportunities or ‘perks’ than others, every single person who finds themself donating time, resources, knowledge or more to the Festival walks away knowing that their contribution matters.”

Members of the 2022 Royal Court pose on the Traveling Float, surrounded by Festival volunteers during a summer parade. Many of these Daffodilians are familiar faces within the organization, who serve as beloved Chaperones, events staff, Festival leadership, and more. [photo courtesy of the Daffodil Festival]

Even from within the ranks of the 2022 Court – freshly graduated this past Spring, and in the beginnings of their collegiate years – many of these young women also plan on returning someday, to give back themselves.

Queen Clara readily affirms that she “can definitely see myself returning to Daffodil… they do so much to empower the women of tomorrow that I couldn’t imagine not giving back one day.”

Princess Kaitlyn already has plans on giving back to the programs that helped her, as well. “I already have plans to donate to [help] ‘Sponsor a Princess.’ I would love to be more involved with the Festival as I get older, and would feel satisfied serving wherever the Festival needs my skills.”

Princess Aiysha sees herself making a return, to volunteer and maybe, someday, even become a Daffodilian. “I love this big yellow family and didn’t think it’d give me so much… I love the Festival and hope to stay involved in whatever way that I can.”

Princess Andrea sees herself among those yellow ranks again, but in a blazer, too. “It would be a great honor to serve my community as a Daffodilian,” she says. “Having been a Princess, I have learned to appreciate the commitment of those who serve in the yellow jackets to honor the tradition and continue the legacy. They are the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes in order to make the events the magic that they are. Without them, we would not be here today to celebrate ‘90 Years Around the Sound.’ I hope to carry on the mission and vision of the Daffodil Festival to our future generations of Daffodil Princesses.”

As always, we thank the many generous donors and contributors to the Daffodil Festival, who continue to ensure the Royalty Program is as welcoming and supportive as possible for all members. It is through the donations we receive through the “Sponsor a Princess” program, that we can guarantee the yellow dresses and glittering tiaras of the Royal Court remain a fixture in the many communities of Pierce County.

Are you interested in donating to the 2023″Sponsor a Princess” campaign? Follow this link, or visit the “Shop” section of our website, in order to contribute. We thank you for your willingness to help continue the Daffodil legacy!

Interested in parting with a few of your closet pieces, in order to transform the senior year of a Princess? We are now accepting clothing donations for the 2022 Festival Closet, which will be made available to the incoming Royal Court during upcoming Princess Practices. Reach out via the messaging platforms on our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram, or shoot us an email, for more information!

Are you a dedicated volunteer interested in investing your valuable time with the Daffodil Festival? There’s never been a better time to become more involved! Check out the “Get Involved” tab of our website, or reach out via social media messaging, for more information. We cannot wait to see how your incredible talents can help the Festival continue to grow!

**** Further proof that our Festival is born from the generosity and talents of our volunteers and Daffodilians: we couldn’t fit all of the names of people who received shoutouts in the body of this post! From Princesses to Festival leadership, each of these names were held up as examples of positivity and generosity by someone interviewed for this blogpost:

Pelumi Ajibade, Morgan Bernardi, Sue Dellinger, Savannah Fry, Kelly Hewitt, Christine Lew, Amy Meek, Kelsey Monaghan-Bergson, June Monroe-Guimond, Ernie and Mary Ouellette, Tim and Judy Smith, Bob and Anitra Sudderth, Carrie Swanlund, Mabel Thompson, Nina Voigt, Rob and Connie Wekell, Casey Williams, Demetria Zuniga, and many, many more!

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